Everyone needs a storyteller in his life. If we’re lucky, we have more than one storyteller. If we’re really lucky, we are also each our own storyteller. I am reminded of the very famous “David Copperfield” quote which begins the novel by Charles Dickens: “Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.”

It is our nature to tell stories. We need stories more than we need opposable thumbs. Indeed, our brains crave stories because it is the way we remember things.

How in the bible did David slew Goliath? How is that story repeated in the contemporary novel “The Kite Runner” when one of the main characters threatens another boy with a slingshot, and then that boy with the slingshot begets a boy who uses a slingshot to put out the very same villain’s eye and escape to free himself and make his way out of Afghanistan into the free world of America?

What does “To Kill a Mockingbird” teach us about justice and kindness to the unloved among us? What is true colorblindness and what is it like to live without prejudice? What does it mean to say, “You reap what you sow”?

What does “Aesop’s Fables” teach us about the boy who cried wolf, and our need not to clamor for attention so that we will be ignored when we might really need assistance?

One of my creative fiction writing instructors pointed out that we tell stories not only to entertain, but so that our readers or listeners may learn something about themselves and the world around them. We tell stories so that those who read our work can imagine what it might be like to live someone else’s life. It is how we imagine a different future from our past. What if that were me? How would I face that dilemma? Why, in the grand scheme of things, does my life even matter?

As Jonathon Fanzen so wisely pointed out, “The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.”

Now a story about a storyteller. There are several versions of this story, but again, it’s a story, so the exact truth of what actually happened is secondary to the meaning of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s near death experience. Based on what the Russian author had written and said, he was condemned to die by firing squad, as per order of the czar. Dostoevsky suddenly appreciated every breath, every moment of his time left on earth, and as he walked before the soldiers, he felt the sun beating down on him with a new intensity. At the very last moment, after he had already been blindfolded, an order for a stay of execution arrived by messenger and he was freed, freed to go on to write some of the greatest works of fiction ever created. In a strange way, I envy Dostoevsky’s near death experience for the urgency it gave to his life. What we do and how we spend our time here on earth matters.

Our lives can change in accordance with the stories we read and the tales we tell. In this way, we become our own reality, based on the sorts of things we take in and acknowledge as important to us. Why do you think various religions counsel us to keep vigilant about what we allow ourselves to be exposed to? The point, however, is that we get to choose what movies we see, what books we read, what family tales we pass on to each other, even how we order our days so that we may experience as much peace and as many blessings as possible.

I wish everyone as many transformative experiences in the new year as possible. Live life on life’s terms, certainly, but make your time here mean something.

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